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A Student of Living Things Paperback – July 3, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (July 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288492
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,281,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One April morning in a near-future Washington, D.C., Claire Frayn and her brother, Steven, leave for George Washington University, where she is a biology Ph.D. student (and mother of three-month-old Asa), Steven is a law student with a penchant for writing op-eds and their father is a professor of medicine; aunt Faith works nearby in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. They leave their parents and extended family arguing over Steven's latest piece: this one bashes the DOJ's enforcement of the Freedom for Democracy Act. It is a salvo in the "civil war" (as Claire describes it) that churns as U.S. homeland security tightens, and paranoia reigns. Steven is shot dead on the library steps; that same morning, Faith is fired. Claire, steps from Steven when he dies, slowly resumes daily life and metamorphoses like the insects that fascinated her since childhood. With Asa's father out of the picture, she slips into a cloak-and-dagger scheme with an alluring stranger to coax Steven's killer back to town. Shreve, author of 12 novels and more than two score children's books, is parsimonious with the opening plot points, but once the momentum shifts forward, just try to put this book down. (On sale May 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Her affinity for biology prompted her mother to call her a "student of living things," although Claire Frayn had no qualms about scrutinizing the dead. Not that this enables her to cope with her brother's death, especially since she was standing beside him on the library steps when he was shot. Claire and Steven had been living at home in a Washington, D.C., suburb while attending graduate school. Bombings and other terrorist acts have become commonplace in a grim nearfuture, and it is against this malevolent backdrop that the politically outspoken Steven is assassinated. The Frayns--an eccentric extended family of survivors of many atrocities and sorrows sensitively and charmingly portrayed--are unaware of the danger Claire is in as she is drawn to an enigmatic man who claims to have been Steven's friend. Shreve's novels are always elegant in their blend of restraint and intensity, and this is an exquisite hybrid, a poetic and resonant story of grief, family bonds, risk, and love that is as propulsive and unpredictable as a first-class thriller. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The heart of the Frayn family is centered in their home, where they gather for safety in a world drastically changed and unpredictable post 9/11. The country has lapsed into unilateral paranoia, small revolutions breaking out, random violence and political unrest, the National Guard familiar figures on the streets of Washington, DC. Brother and sister, Steven and Claire, are inseparable, best friends; when Steven is shot and killed on the steps of George Washington University, Claire is only a few steps away. The family is devastated by the loss of the articulate, motivated Steven, who penned fearless op-ed articles and engaged in active debate about the post 9/11 political climate. His death is a terrible shock to the family, almost impossible to fathom, each of them struggling to acknowledge that safety exists only in the imagination. Mourning, Claire feels Steven's loss grievously, until she discovers an opportunity to set things right, perhaps even the score for the loss of her brother.

In this touching tale, tenderness is found in the midst of grief, hope surfacing unexpectedly, Claire's intuition as a scientist eventually rescuing her from the emotions that have propelled her decisions, assumptions she has accepted without question in the wake of Steven's death: "The mind... is a curious thing, the way it grips the tracks once it's on course." It is during this time of great melancholy and confusion that Claire embraces life once again with the same enthusiasm she knew when her brother was still alive, only to learn a terrible lesson: "Sadness has the weight of nothing else I know". A love story in the heart of chaos, Claire, a biologist, is thrust into unfamiliar territory in an emotional conflict she is ill-prepared to confront.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Claire Frayn is a post graduate student majoring in biology at George Washington University; her brother Steven is studying law at the school and enjoys writing articles criticizing the government. Claire and Steven head to the university together while their parents debate his latest condemnation, this time of the Department of Justice's use of the Freedom for Democracy Act to trample on individual rights under the guise of keeping people safe. At the school's library, an assassin shoots and kills Steven right near Claire

Claire goes through the five steps of grief, but wants revenge against the killer who conveniently escapes law enforcement; however she feels helpless as she has no idea who he or she is or how to uncover the culprit's identity. From Michigan, music composer Victor Duarte contacts Claire informing her he can help her with her need to avenge her sibling. She is enticed by his offer as her family remains devastated by the tragedy and is not there for her. However, as Claire heals she begins to ponder who charismatic Victor is, as he seems to know too much yet the second civil war in her mind began with that bullet on the library steps.

Though the introduction to the extended Frayn family takes its time, once Steven is murdered, the story line turns into a terrific thriller that never slows down until the climax. Claire is a wonderful heroine struggling with the death of her brother as much as with her feelings of hopelessness until Victor offers her an opportunity. Like Claire when she begins to regain her equilibrium and leave behind much of the fog of grief, readers will wonder if she has agreed to a Faustian deal. Readers will be a student of Susan Richards Shreve following this tense tale.

Harriet Klausner
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Martin Nouvell on June 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not knowing what to expect, I paged through this book a few minutes before I needed to hit the freeway. Mistake. I can't remember finding a modern novel so compelling. I could not put it down. Came back from my mtg and stay up until I finished it. The ending was a surprise, but believable and not a let down. At times the narrator seemed younger than her Ph.D. level age -- but otherwise I was completely drawn in with that wonderful experience of a book that graps you by your eyes and won't let go.

A couple of days later after I read the last page, I still find myself thinking about the world of A Student of Living Things. Recommend it full out.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is that rare thriller where an author shows that a fast-paced and incredibly tense plot do not have to come at the expense of true-to-life multilayered characters and serious emotionally resonant writing. This book is super original, and succeeds as a mystery novel, a love story, and a story of overcoming tragedy all at once. What a great read this was! I'm sure the characters and the questions will be lingering in my mind for a long while.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dale D. Vaughn on September 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I couldn't force myself to read beyond the first two paragraphs. Usually I enjoy reading Susan Shreve's books, but not this time.
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More About the Author

Susan Richards Shreve is the author of several novels, including A Student of Living Things and You Are the Love of My Life, as well as the memoir Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven. She has also written dozens of children's books, including The Lovely Shoes, and is the co-editor or editor of five anthologies.

Shreve founded the MFA degree at George Mason University, where she is a professor of English and present co-chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. She has also taught at Columbia School of the Arts and Princeton University for the MFA programs. Among her numerous accolades are the Guggenheim Award for Fiction, the Grub Street Prize for nonfiction, and the Service Award from Poets & Writers. She lives and writes in Washington, DC

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A Student of Living Things
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